"It's a big day for early Pawlenty obituaries," wrote Ben Smith, citing articles from Neil King and our own Sam Stein/Jon Ward tandem, all of whom provided readers with reasons to question Pawlenty's vitality -- he was "too local," or he lacked a longstanding team of advisers, or his "dynamic personality" was too submerged.
That big day went on to become a big week for early Pawlenty obituaries. And it's easy to see why -- anemic poll numbers, lackluster fundraising, aides working for no pay, conflicting messages about whether he was finally "downplaying" the Iowa caucuses or finally competing in Iowa "in earnest." The New York Times'' Jeff Zeleny wrote that after being "the first in line" to run in 2012, it was looking like Pawlenty was sure to be "the earliest major candidate to be shown the door." Bloomberg's John McCormick wrote a piece with a headline that no one in the Pawlenty camp wants out there: "Failure in Iowa's Straw Poll May Doom Pawlenty's 2012 Presidential Effort." Steve Kornacki went even grimmer in a piece titled, "When a campaign starts to smell like death."
We at the Speculatron will remind you that the obituary page was where Tim Pawlenty began.
While we have Kornacki's piece in mind, we'll allow for a similar visitation from the Ghost Of Campaigns Past.
"WoooOOOOooOO! Don't forget, though! So many people were writing off John McCain early on in the campaign cycle! But he rose and won!" True enough, ghostie. Never forget. But let's recall that John McCain had a run under his belt at the time, a big national profile, a made-for-movie life story, a dedicated team of longstanding advisers, and a record of getting big things done in the Senate -- things people remembered, things that were defined by his involvement. By contrast, as Kornacki points out, Pawlenty's presence in the race begins with the definition that he is an alternative to someone else, and erodes from there:
The unspoken premise of Pawlenty's campaign has been that Romney is simply unacceptable to too many important factions of the Republican Party -- and that once party elites realize this, they'll turn to Pawlenty, who meets the activist base's various litmus tests and is generic enough to be a "safe" general election candidate. Other than that, he really doesn't have much to offer -- no fun, lively or exciting personality or rhetoric, no inspiring life story, no big ideas. He doesn't stand out in a crowd; he blends in.
Indeed. Cellophane. Mister cellophane. That should have been TPaw's name: "Mister Cellophane." Because you can look right through him, walk right by him, and never know he's there.
The same cannot be said of Michele Bachmann, who's running strong in Iowa and is now looking better and better in New Hampshire. And while the media looked right past Ron Paul this week, the fact that he outraised all but Mitt Romney this last quarter speaks for itself. Speaking of Romney -- he's still dedicating himself to the future, in which he's squaring off with President Obama. But Romney's week was defined by errors, portents, and the notion that the win may not be as easy as he thought it would be.
Speaking of Obama, fractures are forming between him and his base as everyone contends with bad jobs numbers and an impending "grand bargain" that could threaten Social Security and Medicare. Herman Cain's found himself in need of a bump, too -- he'll try to obtain one from Stephen Colbert. Does Michele Bachmann really want to destroy a productive sector of the American economy by banning pornography? Can Newt Gingrich get by with niche support? And as we welcome someone named Thad McCotter to the Speculatron this week, we're bidding farewell to someone as well. To find out who, please enter the Speculatron for the week of July 8, 2011.